Fiscal Misperceptions Associated with Tax Expenditure Spending: the Case of Pronatalist Tax Incentives in Sinapore
Tax expenditures are a potentially expedient means through which politicians can implement spending programs that target benefits at a select few while ensuring that the cost and distributive effects of such programs remain largely imperceptible to the majority. This paper reports the results of an exploratory study to assess the extent and determinants of public awareness of pronatalist tax policy in Singapore, and of public perceptiveness of the cost and distributive outcomes of these pronatalist tax incentives. It is found that survey respondents largely are aware of the existence of the incentives. However, there is widespread ignorance (if not misperceptions) of the spending implications and hidden cost associated with these incentives and of their distributive biases along eugenic, income and ethnic dimensions. Non-beneficiaries of the tax expenditures not only are less likely to be aware of the existence of the incentives, they are also less likely to be perceptive of the distributive effects. Overall, the empirical findings are a testimony to why the tax expenditure route has proven to be such a politically expedient way for the Singapore Government to implicitly pursue its policy of selective pronatalism.
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